For a good clean break, hit it where it is weakest.
Cracking an egg is one of the most basic things you do when baking. It may also be a task that entices a child’s interest in cooking; there are not too many opportunities to break something without getting into trouble. Once you start trying your hand at making cakes and pies for family dinners and church socials, you soon realize cracking eggs it isn’t all fun and games. Experienced chefs can crack, split and drop and egg yolk in a bowl with a couple of deft movements of one hand but, for the rest of us, it is often a messy affair. So, how do you crack an egg? There are a few different ways to consider.
Cracking eggs on the edge of a bowl may be a popular method, but there are drawbacks. If you don’t get a sharp crack with the first whack, you will break the shell further when pulling it apart, pushing shell bits inside the egg and allowing any existing bacteria from the shell to come in contact with the yolks and white. Bits of shell can also fall into the bowl, and the egg itself will run down the side of the bowl.
Do you prefer to crack eggs on a flat surface? If done correctly, you just need one assertive whack on the countertop, using a thumb make an indentation at the crack, then pull the shell apart with both hands. Sounds easy enough but, if you don’t get a solid crack and when you try to pull the shell apart, you will encounter the same issues as when cracking the egg on the edge of the bowl.
So what to do? It seems the secret is not necessarily which method you use to crack the egg, but where you crack the egg. It sounds cruel, but hit it where it is weakest. You need to apply the right amount of force to the “egg equator,” or the center of the egg, to get a good, clean break. If you are interested in science, this article regarding a study out of MIT goes into depth about rigidity and determining how much force an object can withstand before it cracks. If you simply want to whip up an omelet without getting shells in the bowl, use your favorite method to crack the egg, but be mindful of these things.
If you crack on a surface, hold the egg lightly and give it a swift rap on the countertop. Too timid a rap, and you will have to hit it again. Too hard of a rap, and you crush the shell.
If you use a bowl, choose one with a thin edge, such as a stainless steel mixing bowl. If you try to crack an egg on a wide rimmed ceramic bowl, you are likely to just crush the eggshell instead of cracking it. My favorite method for cracking eggs, regardless of how many eggs are called for in the recipe (and especially if I am separating the yolks from the whites), is to crack one egg into a small thin-edged bowl, add it to the mixing bowl, then crack another, repeating the process. If the yolk breaks or I get shell bits in the bowl, I have lost only one egg, not all.
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When in doubt about a cooking question, I always go to my in-house experts, Pam Lolley and Robby Melvin of the Southern Living Test Kitchens. For a clean break, especially when separating eggs, they both opt for cracking on the edge of a bowl.